When I think of India I automatically think of their cultural diversity. I think of their beautiful attire and huge weddings. I think of their spicy food. I think of their dedication to their religion, assuming they are religious… However, I most certainly don’t think of art when India is mentioned. So when I came across the photographer Raghu Rai I was quite surprised at how intrigued I was about his photographs. From my assumption, Rai’s photographs give clear insight into the Indian culture and their social norms.
For my entire life I have lived in the Sutherland Shire, that has its own culture within itself, which is almost the opposite of the Indian culture in Rai’s eyes. Due to the fact that I have really only been exposed to the same traditions and way of life, I have an uneducated perception of India and therefore further study is mandatory.
Photo credit: Raghu Rai ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During prayer.’ <http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R13L27M>
Throughout my research I came across Rai’s image ‘Mother Teresa at her refuge of the missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. During Prayer’ so I decided to do some background study into the Hindu religion to give me greater insight into their traditions. I found that over 80% of the population of India identify themselves as part of the Hindu religion. According to Cultural India, Hindu religion is based on the idea that human and animal spirits come back to earth to live countless times in various forms (Cultural India, 2017). As mentioned by Cultural India, Hinduism believes a person is born into a privileged life because of the good they have done in a past life, where as people born into poverty have done wrong in previous lives (Cultural India, 2017). Rajhan claims that prayer in the Hinduism religion is extremely important to those who follow, some of the reasons they pray is to depend on god during distress, to ask god for enlightenment and they pray for they’re surrendering themselves to god completely (Rajhans, 2017).
According to BBC, Hindu people pray or worship whenever the individual wishes, majority of Hindu homes have a shrine where offerings are made and prayers are said which is generally on a daily basis (BBC, 2005). This information is no real surprise, but it is beneficial and interesting to gain some deeper insight into the Indian religion. Through having this understanding of Indian traditions I believe it will not only heavily influence my interpretation of the photographers work, but also essentially my own art making practice when I begin to re create a series based on my response.
Photo credit: Raghu Rai ‘Hand building highway – Hydrabad, 2004’ <http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3R13L27M>
The photo above is Rai’s ‘Hand Building Highway’, looking back on this photo a few weeks later after doing further research I have responded to it in a whole new way. Little did I know is that Indians balance heavy and at times awkward objects on their head as it is the most appropriate form of transportation for them. As mentioned by Dweck (2010), the ancient art of this balancing act is common practice anywhere in developing countries and is generally performed by women. According to Dweck (2010), people can carry loads of up to 20 percent of their own body weight without using any extra energy beyond what they’d use by walking around unencumbered.
As stated by Whittle (2016), the fact that women routinely carried heavy loads on their heads in pre-industrial societies reminds me that much of the routine work, like collecting water, gathering fuel and laundering linens was physically demanding on their bodies. Not to mention that agriculture in the pre-industrial economy required a lot of fetching and carrying on foot generally between house and fields and farm and market and majority of this was done by women.
For my digital artefact I still aim to create a photographic series based on my relation and interpretation of Rai’s long line of work. I will take images that are based off similar experiences to the Indian culture but in a way that relates to my own traditions. For example, when I see ‘Hand Building Highway’ I automatically think to how we transport our essentials, either in a car or truck so perhaps I could photograph that in response to Rai’s image.
BBC, 2005, Hinduism: Worship, BBC, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/worship/worship.shtml>
Cultural India, 2017, Hinduism Religion India, Cultural India, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.culturalindia.net/indian-religions/hinduism.html>
Dweck, J 2010, The Art of Carrying Things on your Head, Slate, viewed 14th September 2017, <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/08/head_case.html>
Whittle, J 2016, Why do women carry things on their heads?, WordPress, viewed 14th September 2017, <https://earlymodernwomenswork.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/why-do-women-carry-things-on-their-heads/>